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December 13, 2004

On Lieberman…

Folks who have known me for the past, oh, two decades have known I’ve been on a long-term tear over one of my local senators, Joe Lieberman. Some of you have been waiting for this rant. The short version: compared to Joe, FCC Commissioner Michael Powell is Anthony AND Opie.

Lieberman might be the greatest threat to the First Amendment since the McCarthy Era. He’s got his “high moral standards” and he’s quick to shove them down your throat. His favorite tool is to threaten legislation against the creators of intellectual content that he doesn’t like. He’s threatened movie producers, television producers, broadcast outlets (the government controls their licensing), and video game manufacturers. The threat of government censorship is EXACTLY the same as the reality of government censorship, except the latter is unconstitutional. As Michael Powell has shown, taking on the threat of government censorship can be extremely expensive. It’s easier – and far more profitable – to cave in to these zealots.

Like most bookburners, Lieberman says he’s doing this in the name of the children, leaving the clear message that anybody who doesn’t like it is therefore anti-child. These days repression generally hides beneath the call of “saving the children,” like as if the government should do a better job of raising your children than our parents did. The clowns who can’t deliver the mail on time want to tell you how to raise your children.

If you look at his record and his speeches, it is clear that Lieberman is little more than Zell Miller at 33 1/3 RPM. He’s been a first-class Bushite, the Blue parrot on W’s shoulder. Back in 2000 when he was the ill-fated vice presidential candidate, he attracted a lot of support from those Jews who would vote for anybody who will bolster their ethnic pride. Over time, though, many Jews saw the hob-nailed boots underneath Joe’s saintly gown and most failed to support him in number during this year’s presidential run. To be fair, a great many American Jews neither care for nor trust the ultra-orthodox, defining them as zealots or, more recently, fundamentalists. And even the sexually repressed are down on copulating through a hole in the bedsheet.

Over the years I’ve made my feelings known to Joe, through his associates and assistants. I am proud to say that when he crashed one of my social service events (the opening of a childcare center in Stamford; numerous other dignitaries including the sitting Secretary of Education, Rep. Chris Shays and Mayor Dan Malloy were invited and made speeches) he was brought over to me for introduction and speech scheduling. When he took one look at my nametag, he blanched (quite an effort for a man made out of liquid paper). I smiled. He actually sneered. Damn, it was like a high school graduation. I remained polite. He turned away.

I’d like to point out that my comments to not extend to his wife, Hadassah, who I consider to be quite remarkable. She was responsible for one of the most astonishing experiences I’d ever had with a politician.

A couple years ago, Hadassah’s people called my office to arrange for a tour of the very same childcare center I mentioned above. She had heard good things about the program and she wanted to visit. Fine. I automatically think mutually beneficial publicity with photo-ops. But she wanted to come at the end of the day – too late to get on teevee – and she wanted to see the program and not press the flesh. We worked it out; I didn’t notify the media, I didn’t notify the local politicians. Not even the local Democrats, who didn’t know about it because they didn’t show up.

She arrived roughly on time. Leaving her driver in the car, I took Hadassah and her daughter on a private tour of the facility (along with the center’s creator / director, an astonishingly innovative spirit named Emily Firlik). She had no entourage. None whatsoever. Not even protection from a dangerous radical like me, known to confuse her husband with Joseph Goebbels. Hadassah asked specific, insightful questions indicative of a desire to broaden her understanding of the problems of poor parents in getting an education for their children. No political gain for the Liebermans; the only picture that was taken to commemorate the visit was taken by me.

So my problem is with the old man, Senator Joe. The man who is among the top three rumored contenders for the Homeland Security post.

Cynics will say that if Joe’s nominated the Republicans will get to replace a Democratic seat in the Senate with a Republican. That doesn’t matter; whenever he can pull his lips away from W’s butt, Lieberman often votes Red anyway. The Republican governor, a replacement for the former Republican governor who had to resign in disgrace earlier this year, will no doubt select a Red to finish Joe’s term, which ends in January 2007. Big deal. That’s not much time to build a constituency and it’ll just force the Blues to put forward their candidate at the same time.

There’s a bit of ego involved. Connecticut is a solidly Blue state, and given its role in producing the two Presidents Bush, that’s a bit of an embarrassment. The Governor is Red, but as I said she inherited it from her highly disgraced Red predecessor. The other Senator is Chris Dodd, perhaps the most liberal Blue in the Senate. The Reps are split between the Blues and the Reds, but the traditionally popular Red Chris Shays barely held onto his seat this election. Most of the rest of the Connecticut hierarchy is Blue, and the Governor’s chair is up for grabs in 2006. So maybe a Red senator will help.

Still, I think Joe’s nomination is something between less-than-likely and a long-shot. He’s not a Born Again, he’s not quite a NeoCon, and he’s creepy as hell.

But he certainly belongs with Bush’s bible-thumpers and goosesteppers. I hope he gets the job. And I hope Hadassah runs for his seat in 2006.

Posted by Mike Gold at December 13, 2004 11:29 AM

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You just hit the nail on the head. I have all the same problems with Joe, and I don't even live in Connecticut. His inclusion on the Gore ticket almost led me to vote for Nader (only fear of Bush swayed me to Gore, for what little good that did -- and I'm a Floridian, to boot).

Ironically, it was Gore's inclusion on the Clinton ticket that caused me a lot of consternation due to his and Tipper's involvement in the PMRC. But after eight years of keeping quiet about it, I thought Gore had grown out of it or something. Mojo Nixon told me in an interview that he suspected the Clintons told the Gores to keep their mouths shut about that stuff or they would have trouble getting elected. I think he was right.

Whatever happened to freedom of speech?

Posted by: Julio Diaz at December 13, 2004 01:55 PM

I shared your concerns about the Gores' work with the PMRC, but ultimately I figured if Gail Zappa could endorse him, I could vote for him. At least, as long as he was running against Bush.

Do you know what Mojo's up to these days? He seems to have fallen off the map. Big time fan -- I met him at the San Diego Comic-Con about a decade ago; had a great discussion. We could use a little Mojo Nixon these days.

Freedom of speech actually is in better health than ever before, thanks to the Internet. There are voices out there -- OUR voices -- that cannot be stilled.

Posted by: Mike Gold at December 13, 2004 06:44 PM

Sadly, Mojo decided to retire from the music biz earlier this year. Too many years of beating his head up against the wall for very little financial return. He was doing radio for a while, not sure if he is still doing that or what he's been working on since his retirement.

The press release about his retirement is still the front page of www.mojonixon.com. He cheekily says that he is following in the litany of other musicians, entertainers and sports figures that have retired -- and the entire list is folks that later un-retired (Michael Jordan, The Who, etc.).

Mojo was one of my favorite interviews. We shot the breeze for well over an hour, and I could barely keep up with him. The interview ran in May of '99, and is online at http://www.ink19.com/issues_F/99_05/ink_spots/019_mojo_nixon.shtml if you are interested.

I miss his voice in the music world, for sure.

And you're right about freedom of speech -- I need to keep things in perspective. It's easy to forget when every day brings news of some new right wing totalitarian-seeming scheme.

Posted by: Julio Diaz at December 14, 2004 05:38 PM

Sorry to hear about Mojo, although I understand his frustration. It's one shared by a great many "old geezers" in the comic book business.

Mojo stood up for what he believed in, and got that across in his music with both precision and humor. That's pretty damn rare, and I hope he is able to unretire soon.

Posted by: Mike Gold at December 15, 2004 03:19 PM

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